Interview: Ringo Deathstarr, January 18, 2011

Posted on by Allison in Albums, Everything, interviews, Music | 3 Comments

Ringo Deathstarr

Austin-based Ringo Deathstarr is one of the best things to come out of Austin since Ricky decided SXSW is the greatest event in the universe.

While touring the U.K. with David Gedge’s the Wedding Present, two of my friends on the tour could not stop raving about how fantastically legendary Ringo Deathstarr were, live. Given the number of opening acts they have seen, I took this to heart and checked out their debut EP, then moved onto Sparkler to find amazing collections of toe-tapping ambiance.

Frontman Elliott Frazier recently sat down with us to answer a few questions.

PM: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. I want to start things off by fully admitting that we didn’t know a whole lot about you prior to 2010. But after hearing so much buzz from the Wedding Present’s 2010 tour, we checked out your excellently noisy self-title debut, that I was surprised to learn was released back in 2007.

Why are we just hearing about you now?

RD: Who knows…we never really had proper labels or distribution in the United States of America*.
*(The band is on the U.K.’s SVC label now)

PM: Tell us a bit about your first full-length LP, Colour Trip,  that has already been generating a fair bit of talk. Maybe you can also let us know why you went with the British (which we in Canada are so fond of) spelling, the recording process and you know, if you ate anything particularly memorable during recording (I just had a nectarine).

RD: The British spelling is because the record label behind this whole thing is British and you know, that’s just how the Queen would spell it.

We recorded it a year ago, and we had never really been in the studio for a month straight before, so we took advantage of all the nice toys they have.  Some songs were written in the studio, some we had been working on off and on since the previous summer…A studio date here, a studio date there. But once Club AC30 got behind us they put us up for a month and we got busy.  The most memorable thing for me was just working with Jason “Computer Boy” Buntz, ‘cuz he was not too afraid to try crazy ideas, and let me tell you, we both had plenty.

PM: How do you feel about all of the Pitchfork publicity? Yay, nay, indifference because publicity is publicity?

RD: Pitchfork gave us a good review once a long time ago, and it did help. but one can’t be too concerned with Pitchfork….we do our thing, they do theirs.

PM: A lot of listeners have decided you channel  a lot of JAMC, MBV, and the other usual shoegaze suspects. But I’ve often found that when listeners peg all sorts of influences on a band, the band doesn’t even have them on the
mental list. Do you have a mental list, and if so who are they?

RD: Every time I hear a really shitty band, it inspires me to make something better. So there’s all that…plus you know, there’s plenty of music that influences us besides “shoegaze”: Black Flag, Fugazi, Ramones, Devo, Dance House Children, Descendents, Nirvana, Nirvana, Nirvana, Beat Happening, Guitar Wolf…

PM: For our SXSW attendees, where is the best place to get the best burger in Austin?

RD: P. Terry’s, ‘cuz they have vegetarian burgers, as well as a great meat burger (so I’m told). Hut’s is consistently kick ass.

PM: A lot of your recent tour dates have been in Europe, one of them with the legendary Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (what a bill..G500 fans must be peeing their pants, as I think those that don’t already like you will after the show). It must be weird to play with folks who have been doing this for decades, like David Gedge and Dean, in an intimidating way. Have you noticed a difference between the veterans and the newbies?

RD: Not really, just age I guess.  Some people are party animals, and some are not, no matter how long theyve been playing…So we just like meeting the living legends. So far they’ve all been cool to us.

PM: Finally, when are you coming to Toronto!?

RD: In the springtime, when the flowers are in bloom.

You can pick up Ringo Deathstarr’s Colour Trip that is set for release on March 8th.

Ringo Deathstarr – So High by johnout

Concert Review: Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, January 15, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | Leave a comment

Saturday night’s show with David Lowery, and the more-or-less original line-ups of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker illuminated a few things for me. First, some people age better than others (frontman David Lowery still looks pretty much exactly the same as he did in 1993, except that he may now need bifocals as evidenced through his indecisive “should I keep them on or take them off” fiddling with his glasses); second, that the late 80’s/early 90’s remain to be an overlooked era of new music; third that I should go to more reunion shows to feel young.

Let’s talk for a bit about reunion shows. Some of you (by this I mean 5 people) might already be aware of my conflicted feelings about this matter. It’s not that I dislike reunion shows, it’s more that I think their very nature (being a cash grab) makes for rather lifeless shows. But it’s a double-edged sword…on the one hand those of us who would’ve been too young to go to these concerts in the first place want to relive a missed past. On the other, shouldn’t we be letting these people get on with their lives instead of driving barrel-fulls of money up to their homes begging them to perform said almost-chart-topper? Shouldn’t we be letting these people get on with their lives? It’s all very gray and hazy for nostalgic folks such as myself, but I at least acknowledge that recapturing what was then will never be for now.

The same contradictions that I feel about reunion shows can apply to the way they are being carried out. More than a few acts have taken CVB’s/Cracker’s same approach of touring one definitive album, often considered by fans and critics alike to be the band’s best release, and giving the fans what they want. The Wedding Present did the same thing with Bizarro this past year, and judging from t-shirt sales, this is what people are looking for. I suppose it’s better than getting a barrage of requests by a pathetic drunk superfan’s barrage of “best of” requests being flung every few minutes (more on that, as well as Lowery’s response to this,  later).

First off, I note that Lowery is really well-preserved and his gravelly voice is on par with how I remembered it, hearkening back to my observation that some genres of music are simply more forgiving than others when decades pass. He first appeared with a 6-man line-up for the Camper Van Beethoven blitzkrieg-paced performance of Key Lime Pie. Some renditions went over better than others, with the country-infused (like with Borderline ), augmented  “baby getting hit with a cat” violin bits of who I can only assume to be Don Lax not flying over so smoothly. Interlude and Flowers were a bit more dodgy, probably based more on my lack of appreciation of the songs more than anything else. Of the slower tracks, June probably came off best. Their cover of Pictures of Matchstick Men, the biggest  managed to revitalize the lulling crowd (which looked almost sold out to me at this point).

The most amusing interaction Lowery had with us was when he was setting up a recorded sample on his iMac, where he admitted we could probably hear the interruptions from his Gchat account pinging him. Which begs to question, how seriously are these shows anyway?

Not very, and rightfully so. Lowery even sent so far as to belittle an annoying drunk fan who wouldn’t stop yelling out requests, in spite of the explanation that this would be a track-by-track performance of the Cracker album Kerosene Hat. “Dude, you are so not funny anymore”.  During another jabbing round when the guy continued to yell out songs he wanted to hear, guitarist Johnny Hickman attempted to break it up with some light stories about how the drunk guy would eventually succumb to embarrassing stories of the first time he was laid, to which Lowery responded “What are you kidding me? This guy’s never been laid in his life!”

Let this be a lesson to you loud request yellers.

As for the Kerosene Hat set, it made me remember how good this album was in 1993 and still is today. The energy was a lot higher because of the singalong qualities of most of the songs that would’ve come back to casual observers like even me. Songs like Low, Get Off This,  Let’s Go For A Ride, and Euro-Trash Girl all made me realize how heavily rotated it was and how “alternative rock” even seems like a bit of a dinosaur concept nowadays. These guys did it pretty well, and seemed pleased to be up there, which is always better than someone killing your memories.

CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN – good guys and bad guys by celsofloyd

Concert Review: Four Corners II, Jan. 14, Steelworkers Hall

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Four Corners is a pretty interesting concept for a concert.  There is no stage.  There are no opening acts or headliners.  Instead, there are four bands, each set up in one corner of the room and taking turns every couple of songs, culminating in all four bands jamming together.  For this, the second edition, the bands involved were Lullabye Arkestra, Quest For Fire, Sun Ra Ra Ra, and Rituals.

Rituals were up first and I’ve got to say they didn’t really make much of an impression on me at all.  This could have something to do with the fact that they were playing in the corner that was furthest away from me, but on the other hand, they didn’t want to make me move closer either.

Sun Ra Ra Ra, on the other hand, made quite the impression on me.  Again, their placement in the room could have had some bearing on my opinion as I was right in front of them, but the Peterborough based band impressed me with their garage/psych/rock n’ roll sound.  Their opening song had a very immediate visceral vibe and an opening riff that reminded me a bit of The Monkees’ “Circle Sky” (this is a good thing … no, seriously).  These guys seem to play around Toronto quite a bit and I’m looking forward to seeing them play a regular set sometime soon.

The remaining corners were filled by two more established Toronto bands, Quest For Fire and Lullabye Arkestra.  Quest For Fire did not disappoint with some solid stoner rock, but they didn’t blow me away either.  They seemed to be keeping it a bit low key, but perhaps that was just a side effect of being sandwiched between Sun Ra Ra Ra and Lullabye Arkestra.  Lullabye Arkestra had an abundance of energy.  The husband and wife duo make a hell of a lot of noise for just two people. 

One of the drawbacks of a show like this is that a band doesn’t necessarily get to build up much steam.  It’s a bit like musical ADD in some respects.  However, it does make for a nice sort of sampler and a unique live music experience.   It also took place in a union hall, which I think is notable since really, how often do you get to see a show at a union hall?        

Lullabye Arkestra – We Fuck The Night by wavelengthtoronto

Lyrical Analysis: Our Lady Peace – Superman’s Dead

Posted on by Ricky in Rickys Random Articles | 3 Comments

Toronto – Everyone who grew up as a teenager or a preteen in the 90s had Our Lady Peace‘s second record, Clumsy (except Paul, apparently). Nevermind the fact that the band has spent the past decade trying to be Canada’s crappier version of U2 (and abandoning the older fans in the process), this album was pretty damn good in it’s hey day.

If you are like me, you were probably always wondering – what in the holy hell was Superman’s Dead about?

Lets take a look at the lyrics:

do you worry that you’re not liked
how long till you break
you’re happy cause you smile
but how much can you fake
an ordinary boy an ordinary name
but ordinary’s just not good enough today

Chorus:
alone I’m thinking
why is superman dead
is it in my head
we’ll just laugh instead
you worry about the weather and
whether or not you should hate

are you worried about your faith
kneel down and obey
you’re happy you’re in love
you need someone to hate
an ordinary girl an ordinary waist
but ordinary’s just not good enough today

Chorus

doesn’t anybody ever know
that the world’s a subway…

Going to the always accurate SongMeanings.net, the general consensus is that the song is about bullying because the word “superman’s dead” implies that there is no one to rescue the said person. Maybe it’s about expectations or female imagery in the media, as the line “an ordinary girl an ordinary waist, but ordinary’s just not good enough today”. Maybe Raine Maida was just really high. Maybe OLP was just trying to be very topical, since it was around the time when DC killed off Superman and returned with those five different guys. I really don’t know.

What does the line “the world’s a subway” mean?

- moves very fast?
– you can get on and off?
– every year, gets more expensive?
– not available to third world countries?

Maybe it’s referring to the restaurant chain, and the world is about how you have limited selections?

Some of these mysteries will never be solved, but it’s still good to think about occasionally, what’s your take?